These words, or words very near this, are found three times in Romans chapter one: (1) v. 24, “Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves.” (2) v. 26, “For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature.” (3) v. 28, “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting.” The question is: what is the meaning?
I recall hearing someone once say that this meant that God gave up the Gentile people and chose the Jews. This, however, cannot be the meaning of these words, for, God is likewise said at times to have given up the Jews (Psalm 81:11-12; Acts 7:40-42a). So what do these words mean? R.L. Whiteside explained: “When people are determined to reject God for their own way, God allows them unhindered to follow their chosen course so that they may the sooner see the degradation that comes to those who follow their own wisdom” (Robert L. Whiteside, A New Commentary on Paul’s Letter to the Saints at Rome, p. 34). B.J. Clark has commented, “If man persists in living to fulfill his carnal desire, God will not prevent him from doing such, nor will He prevent him from reaping the consequences or his transgressions” (Annual Denton Lectures Studies in Romans, page 57).
The point is man can be his own worst enemy. Much of the misery we experience, we bring upon ourselves. “The way of transgressors is hard” (Proverbs 13:15). Keeping God’s instructions will keep up from much unnecessary trouble and sorrow.